School-Live!

Tagged: Film | TV

Japanese animated tv series (2015); original title Gakkō Gurashi! Based on the Manga by Sadoru Chiba and Norimitsu Kaihō. Lerche. Directed by Masaomi Ando. Written by Norimitsu Kaihō. Voice cast includes Mao Ichimichi, Ai Kayano, Inori Minase, Ari Ozawa and Rie Takahashi. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Yuki Takeya (Minase) loves school so much she lives there: the first episode has her happily mingling with her many fellow pupils, enthusing about her life. However, some friends seem distracted and their remarks seem off; and though most of the time the school is bright and clean, in some scenes the windows appear broken. The sense of unease grows until, at the end of the episode, we see the school as it truly is: derelict and surrounded by Zombies.

The survivors have formed "The School Living Club": comprising the pupils Yuki, spade-wielding Kurumi Ebisuzawa (Ozawa) and club president Yuuri Wakasa (Ichimichi), plus teacher Megumi Sakura (Kayano). Megumi complains about being ignored, with only Yuki paying attention to her: by mid-season the viewer has learnt she'd died protecting her pupils, traumatizing Yuki so that she now perceives the school as running normally and Megumi as still alive (see Perception). Later they are joined by Miki Naoki (Takahashi), who argues Yuki should be encouraged out of her delusion, but eventually acknowledges her optimism keeps everyone buoyed. Miki also points out the school seems remarkably well equipped to survive a Disaster, having solar panels, a roof farm, food supplies and a rain tank with water purifier.

This leads to the discovery of the Staff Evacuation Emergency Manual, which suspiciously focuses on responses to bioweapon pandemics (see Biology; Weapons). It also mentions an emergency shelter in the basement: so when Kurumi is bitten by the zombie Megumi, Miki goes there in search of medicine. Meanwhile, zombies break into the building, destroying the crops and generator. Seeing Kurumi afflicted cracks Yuki's delusions, but before imaginary Megumi disappears she suggests a ruse to make the zombies depart. The antidote Miki finds works – confirming the eventuality had been prepared for – and Kurumi recovers. The Manual's map identifies other shelters: the four leave the school to see if these house survivors.

Yuki's imagined Megumi frequently gives good advice: Yuki's subconscious side-stepping her delusions. The zombies – or rather, the victims of a biological weapon – are still partially self aware, loosely living out the routines of their old life. The Anime covers only the early parts of the manga series, which reveals that a virus was accidentally released by a pharmaceutical company (who later want to drop a nuclear bomb on the city).

The series is a good example of Horror in SF. References to Stephen King's The Stand (1978, text restored rev 1990) suggest it was an influence; Kamo no Chōmei's Hōjōki (1212), a Buddhist text on impermanence and reacting to disaster, is quoted (see Metaphysics). The characterization keeps the viewer emotionally engaged, whilst the contrast between Yuki's optimistic worldview and her fellow club members' sense of dread enlivens the storytelling, but also emphasizes how her cheerfulness stops the others from falling into despair.

There was a subsequent live-action film, Gakkō Gurashi! (2019). [SP]

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